new at special exhibitions

Sparkling new gemstone presentation

from 31. January 2018

The NHM Vienna houses one of Europe’s finest gemstone collections. As early as the middle of the 18th century, precious stones and gemstones were kept in the Imperial Collection in Vienna, while several even older items from the Arts and Curiosities Cabinet established by Ferdinand II of Tyrol (1529–1595) were brought to Vienna during the 19th century. While the interest of collectors in the 16th and 17th centuries was only dedicated to “curiosities of nature”, collections became increasingly systematic and scientifically categorized during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The current collection dates back to the purchase of the gemstone collection belonging to the naturalist Jean de Baillou (1684–1758) by Emperor Franz I Stephan of Lorraine in around 1750. Baillou’s collection contained 35 cases filled with precious stones and gemstones, including a number of small diamonds, which the Emperor wished to fuse into one large crystal. The charred remains of this experiment are now on display. Among the other objects on show is a glass replica of the yellow "Florentine" stone, a diamond of historical importance that once belonged to the Habsburgs and which has been missing since 1918.
In the 19th century further items were added from private collections donated to the NHM Vienna, including the collection of rings belonging to Friedrich Hoppe and the gemstone collection of the industrial magnate Richard von Drasche-Wartinburg. Jacob F. van der Nüll’s famous collection also contained a number of outstanding gemstones. The NHM Vienna’s collection of gemstones continues to be expanded today.
The redesign of the gemstone showcases in Hall 4 has made it possible for the first time to show a number of objects related to specific themes. For example, the exhibition shows when humans started to wear decorative objects and jewelry. One part of the exhibition is dedicated to gemstones from Austria, another one to synthetic gemstones.
This new presentation’s selection of common precious stones and rare gems is almost unparalleled in its diversity and scope.
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